Every so often, the Daily Mail favors us, or at least a segment of its audience which may or may not include us, with a story about a woman whose life is afflicted by some horrible condition that can't possibly be her fault. The one I remember most vividly was Samantha Brick, early forties, who contended that "other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks." (By my own reckoning, she came in at 42 millihelens: "damn good for over 40, if nowhere near, say, Helen of Troy.")

At the time, Francis W. Porretto remarked:

It takes a certain amount of brass to write about oneself in this fashion, and not everyone will regard it as good manners to do so. But Mrs. Brick's tales of female resentment toward her ring true to me; I've observed much the same these past four decades, in venues beyond counting.

A novel I read some four decades ago — can't for the life of me remember the title, or even the context, anymore — contained a line about a woman on the receiving end of "the supreme feminine compliment: instant dislike." No woman is immune: even the Duchess of Cambridge has her detractors.

That said, I really didn't see myself being drawn to Samantha Brick, who after all was married, presumably happily. (This condition, I must admit, has not always discouraged the ill-timed crush, but we won't be going there.) And Kate Mulvey, the Mail's current Suffering Woman, unfortunately, is more of a draw:

I've lost count of the times men have rejected or insulted me simply because I was brighter, wittier or cleverer than they are. They have called me "intimidating", "scary", "difficult" and "opinionated". Translated, that means: "You are too clever and I don't like it."

I'm convinced that the reason I'm still booking a table for one instead of settling down with a significant other is not because I'm a year off turning 50, but because men are so threatened by my intelligence.

Photo of Kate Mulvey in the Daily Mail All else being equal, this man would much rather deal with someone who is implausibly smart than with someone who is impossibly dumb, but how often is all else equal? I will concede that, from here up [gestures] anyway, she does look every one of her forty-nine years, but this is not a bad thing for someone who is in fact forty-nine years old. And of course I'm intrigued by her use of the term "table for one," which for the last eleven years has been this site's classification for all dating-related material for reasons I shouldn't have to explain. I can also believe that she's endured as much rejection as she says. As for that "intimidating" business: well, I am hardly typical, inasmuch as I tend to see femininity as intimidating in and of itself, if only because it commands a power that I cannot hope to understand, let alone to deal with. Women far less formidable than Ms Mulvey have had no problems pushing my buttons and getting me to do tricks, telling me that exploiting my weaknesses does not require much in the way of brass.

Ten years ago, I was contemplating similar matters. First, a quote from Barbara North Whitehead, who had written a book called Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman, a title I had said "I would love to hate on general principle":

Several women mentioned that at times in their life they felt that their intelligence or intellectual achievement seemed to work against them in their romantic relationships with men, but most women felt that there were some men "out there" who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them.

To which I responded:

The inference, as I see it: all else being equal, we guys would prefer to be the brains of the operation. This is certainly true of some of us; historically, I have often been drawn to women of greater intelligence than mine, but there's always that nagging thought in the back of my mind: "If she's that smart, what in the world would she want with the likes of me?"

I have yet to answer this question satisfactorily; however, I operate on the assumption that the matter won't come up again and therefore I need give it no further thought, except as a possible topic of discussion, or maybe as a plot point in a story.

The esteemed Mr. Porretto has already weighed in, and I suspect he would be appalled that I cut her any slack at all:

[She] might be very bright indeed. She might be a master of many intellectual fields, plus a few artistic ones for lagniappe. For all I know, she might be a mink with its tail on fire in bed. But whatever her attainments, there's a huge black mark against her that no one could possibly overlook, and few persons would deem worthy of overcoming: her need to demonstrate her superiority to others at every opportunity.

"Few," of course, is not "none." However, were I to suggest that I considered this a challenge worth undertaking, I'm quite certain the readership would burst into guffaws, and I couldn't blame them: even in the best of circumstances, quixoticism can go only so far, and I am seldom presented with the best of circumstances.

I do, however, find myself amused at the way she writes, to the extent that I'd actually consider leafing through her upcoming book of romantic travails, Accidental Singleton, due out in Britain in a fortnight and in the States in February. And I'm the last person in the world who should ever complain about someone being a poor romantic prospect, but maybe that's just me. (Come to think of it, if I'm indeed the last, then it is just me.)

The Vent

#837
  15 September 2013

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